OLOSSIANS 2:16-17 teaches us that the tangible religious rituals with which we are familiar are not the substance of spirituality; they are only representations of it. Specifically, the exterior requirements of the Old Testament "are a shadow of things to come..." But once you get to Christ Himself, then you have obtained the very substance of spiritual truth. In other words, everything points to Christ. In fact, in the previous chapter we saw that the priests & their sacrifices were of no immediate significance (apart from the fact that they served as "the example and shadow of heavenly things.") You could say that they were replicas, but they weren't the real thing (Hebrews 8:3-5 & 10:1). Christ is the real thing. In fact, if we consider the teachings of Christ in John 6:53-64, it becomes apparent that even concerning the incarnate body of Christ, it is not His physical flesh & blood that we must receive. It is the words of the gospel that He has spoken that we must internalize (see John 6:63 specifically). Like we saw in Hebrews 8, it is in the heart & mind of a man (where faith is) that fellowship with God is established & our eternal destinies are determined (Hebrews 9:14).
In this chapter, the words "figure" (vs. 9 & 24), "signify" (vs. 8) and "pattern" (vs. 23) stand out in the teaching of the difference between what we can see & touch, & what we know by faith. Don't imagine that the 2 arenas are unrelated though. In every case, there are physical things that express & represent spiritual realities. And, insofar as these physical things point to something greater, they matter. But, apart from their eternal & heavenly meaning, they do not matter. In fact, they can even become distracting idols.